Millions of Kenyans have voted to decide the country’s next president.
Polls have now closed after a bitter race between former prime minister Raila Odinga against incumbent Vice President William Ruto.
An hour before the voting ended, the election commission announced that just over 12 million people had voted.
From dawn, long lines ran through the streets of Kibera – one of the poorest areas of the country – with thousands waiting to choose their next leader.
A quarter of a million people live here, on the outskirts of the capital Nairobi, and feel the strain of the crippling cost of living crisis, which has seen food and fuel costs soar in recent months this.
The state of the economy is a key electoral issue with both leading candidates promising solutions.
Mr. Ruto has focused his campaign on building a “hustle nation” that attracts disenfranchised young voters. It’s an attractive platform in a country where youth unemployment is high and nearly 40% of eligible voters are under 35.
But Kibera has long been Odinga’s stronghold. He is running for office for the fifth time and his supporters are adamant that he will win.
“We’ve been voting for a long time and we don’t see him becoming president, but he will be our president,” Caroline said, among a trying crowd. glimpse of their chosen leader.
Nearly 200 miles away in Turbo’s constituency, Mr. Ruto voted, confident of success.
“We must all respect the choice of the Kenyan people as we began today in every part of the Republic of Kenya, and I look forward to a day of victory,” he said.
As the largest economy in East Africa and an important security partner for Western nations, these elections are seen as a vital test of African democracy.
Joining thousands of international election watchers on the ground were heads of state, underscoring how important this moment is for the entire region.
Speaking to Sky News, former Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete said he hoped the day would pass peacefully: “You can see for yourself,” he said. “Everything is going smoothly. It’s orderly. That’s all the Kenyans need.”
As the days went by, the initial excitement we witnessed in the morning seemed to dissipate as voters flocked to the polls.
Leading the way, many Kenyans told us they were concerned that the violence witnessed in previous campaigns could be repeated. Some even packed up and planned to leave town until the results were clearer.
In 2008, more than a thousand people were killed and half a million displaced after a controversial election. Subsequent elections in 2013 and 2017 also saw violence, albeit on a smaller scale.
Outside a quiet polling station in central Nairobi, I met Kenyan author and analyst Nanjala Nyabola, who had just voted.
“The thing to understand about electoral violence in Kenya is that it was not spontaneous,” she said.
“It’s systematic, it’s coordinated, it’s funded at the top. So it’s not so many people that people have to worry about, it’s the people in power. It’s this elite compactness. will make a difference. loss?”
As the rear lines weaken, she continues to make her forecast.
“The candidate who will get the most votes in Kenya this time is indifference,” she said.
At 4 p.m., as the voting deadline approached, her prophecy came true. Only 56% of the 22.1 million registered voters voted.